Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Ravens secondary a question mark after struggles against Broncos

DENVER - With the exception of cornerback Lardarius Webb, every other member of the Ravens' starting secondary had at least one glaring lowlight during Thursday's regular season opener against the Denver Broncos, and most of them had more than just one.
That group includes cornerback Corey Graham, safeties Michael Huff and James Ihedigbo and third cornerback Jimmy Smith, who played the majority of the game with the Broncos operating exclusively out of a three wide receiver set.
Denver quarterback Peyton Manning was just 6-of-12 for 50 yards through the Broncos' first three offensive series, but he completed 21 of the final 30 passes he threw for 412 yards and seven touchdowns.
Manning became just the sixth player in NFL history to throw seven touchdowns in a game and the first since 1969. He did so without throwing an interception.
"It was definitely tough," Huff said. "We didn't expect to open the season and play this bad, but we'll definitely learn from it."
The secondary was likely Baltimore's biggest defensive question mark heading into the regular season, and any concerns regarding the group had to be greatened by what happened Thursday.
Graham established himself as a viable starter for the Ravens last season, and he was coming off what appeared to be a strong training camp and preseason, but he struggled mightily Thursday against Broncos slot receiver Wes Welker.
Welker, matched up primarily against Graham, had nine catches for 67 yards and two touchdowns.
Graham was also beaten for a 26-yard touchdown by Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas.
"It was one of those games where everything they did went right and everything we did went wrong," Graham said. "It's a rough one. And for me personally, it's probably one of the worst games I've ever played in my life."
Like Graham, Smith appeared to have a solid training camp and preseason for the most part. But early in the third quarter Thursday, Smith was juked by Thomas, allowing Thomas to turn a short completion into a 34-yard gain. Two plays after that, Smith was beaten for a 28-yard touchdown by reserve wide receiver Andre Caldwell.
Huff, meanwhile, had an ugly missed tackle early in the second quarter that allowed Denver tight end Julius Thomas to pick up 44 yards on what could have been limited to a 15-yard completion. One play later, Thomas beat Huff for a 23-yard touchdown catch.
"We didn't make the plays that we needed to make," Huff said. "Me personally, if we're going to be the defense we want to be, I've got to play better, way better and learn from this."
Ihedigbo had just one noticeable mistake - a poor angle he took to allow Julius Thomas to easily make the 23-yard touchdown catch during the second quarter - but he also didn't do anything that stood out from a positive standpoint aside from a big hit he had during the first half.
The one obvious bright spot for the Ravens' secondary Thursday was the play of Webb, who was playing in his first meaningful game since tearing the ACL in his right knee last October.
But overall, it was a poor showing from the group.
Is Baltimore's secondary anywhere near as bad as it looked Thursday? Probably not. But the struggles against Manning and the Broncos will surely lead to more fans and the media focusing on the secondary when the Ravens host the Cleveland Browns in their home opener next week.
"We have to go back to the drawing board," Ihedigbo said. "It puts it all into perspective as to what type of team we want to be. But at the end of the day, it counts for one loss.
"Everything that we want to do is still in front of us, and that's our focus. We are focused on next week and need to correct the things that we did wrong."